This past Sunday, I decided to take full advantage of the warm weather by riding by the beach. My favorite beach to ride is by Jones Beach, which has an 18.5-mile bike path. The night before, I looked at the weather and saw that there was a chance of rain, so I chose plan B: Rockaway Beach. For the first time, I decided to ride my bike there instead of putting the bike in the SUV and driving to Howard Beach. In the morning, I saw that Jones Beach cleared up but decided to proceed to Rockway Beach since it would take time to get the car ready.
While riding on the boardwalk, I remembered that I had to call Rabbi Sam Rudansky this week to wish him a happy birthday, as we call each other this time of year. We have the same birth date, though I think I am an hour older. We both are ba’alei teshuvah, and went to YU and Cardozo School of Law. I then saw a group of frum boys setting up an event. They were from Mesivta Ateres Yaakov (South Shore), where Rabbi Rudansky is the principal of General Studies. The boys said that Rabbi Rudansky would be arriving soon, and sure enough, he showed up shortly before the beginning of their event and we wished each other a happy birthday.
Now to the main topic. I am glad to hear that Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul left the hospital after being struck by a hammer by a far-right attacker who came to the Pelosi home looking for Nancy. To put this in perspective that the Trumpians can understand, it would have been like an Antifa supporter going to Mar-a-Lago and attacking Melania while asking where Donald Trump is.
Thus, it was very disappointing to see the reaction by some on the right. Arizona gubernatorial candidate Keri Lake and Donald Trump Jr. joked about it. There were conspiracy theories that gained traction in many circles. Others, such as the right-wing Jewish papers that are found in my neighborhood or the columnists who rail week after week against Democrats, just ignored the story. This is just another example of how tribal this country has become. For some people, if your opponent or their spouse is physically attacked, so be it. They deserved it. If it was one of our guys who did it, we will pretend that it never happened or make up some ridiculous story.
We saw the same lack of coverage by the same papers and columnists concerning the anti-Semitic conduct by Kyrie Irving and Kayne West.
It is not mere coincidence that a rabbinic right-wing organization and a columnist in a right-wing paper attacked the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and its leader Jonathan Greenblatt at this time. The attack by the organization was related to Greenblatt’s comments about a Tucker Carlson segment. Carlson interviewed Kayne West and aired portions of his interview but did not show the anti-Semitic remarks West made during the interview. Carlson also did not publicly acknowledge the anti-Semitic comments at all. The rabbinic organization’s attack on the ADL occurred after the ADL called out Kayne.
The ADL (with great success) has been at the forefront of putting pressure on companies and others to punish West and Irving for their anti-Semitic remarks. It has not been easy. Irving is an important leader in the players union. One ESPN commentator said that the double standard when it came to disciplining anti-Semitic conduct was that punishing those who made racist or anti-LGBTQ comments was popular with the players as opposed to punishment for anti-Semitic comments. My theory is that the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, is Jewish, and he was afraid that if he did something it would be perceived as a Jew helping another Jew instead of a commissioner giving fair justice. Another important act to move the needle was a group of Jewish fans, some wearing yarmulkas, sitting courtside at a recent Nets home game with shirts emblazoned with the words “Fight Antisemitism.” It received extensive media coverage. I don’t know how they got the seats, but the person who got them the tickets deserves a lot of credit.
West, for years, has made improper comments about many groups. This is the first time that he suffered economically for his misconduct. This was used by some on the right and on the left to argue that Jews have so much power.
West and Irving are heroes in the right-wing movement. West supported Trump and wore a jacket reading White Lives Matter. Irving is the most famous sports figure who refused to get vaccinated, even though it was mandated. This resulted in Irving not being allowed to play in any Nets home games last season.
These individual Jews and Jewish groups are showing their true colors by being silent. They are very good at attacking left-wing Jews who they feel are self-hating Jews, but are silent when those on the right make anti-Semitic comments. They are Republicans first and Jews second.
If you think that right wing anti-Semitism is bad now, wait for the reaction if Trump is charged with a crime by the Department of Justice. The attacks on Attorney General Merrick Garland will be a smorgasbord of anti-Semitic tropes. Are the Jewish Trumpians going to be silent? I would hope not, but their reaction to Irving and West gives me great doubt that they will have the courage to do so.
This is the time for all Jews, no matter their political persuasion, to stand up against anti-Semitism no matter who is doing it. It is easy to criticize when it comes from the other side. However, if we really care about our fellow Jews, we must make the tough choice and attack those on our “team.” If not, we will fail.